A place of peace and solitude + Anthony Marra’s “The Tsar of Love and Techno”

I’m first and foremost a mother. I like to think that being a wife comes first, and it does in my mind, but children NEED more, even as they get older. ESPECIALLY children with special needs. Both my girls are pretty independent, but my 11 year old with Down syndrome cannot do a lot of things on her own. We’re working on it, but just when she gets something checked off the ‘independence’ list, two more things get added that require my help.

So, the demands of motherhood are greater than the demands of wifehood or selfhood. And second, in the needs category goes to my husband, because we’re (usually) a team. Work. Dogs. Cleaning. Laundry. Volunteering. And then, later, at the bottom of the list comes, friends. And last, me.

I’m not complaining. It’s life, it’s motherhood, it’s marriage. It is what it is, and I wouldn’t really want it any other way. Well, maybe I want someone to clean my house everyday, or to do my laundry. But the rest are things that I love and sacrifice for, just like mothers and fathers worldwide do everyday.

10351474_10207761959588352_2640618945602146731_nStill and all, I do need a little peace and quiet every once and awhile. Even just a few minutes with a book, or a t.v. show, or a blank page (usually on a screen) upon which I can write. And, thanks to my husband, I have a space that is all mine. My space for tranquilty.

It’s just my office, but it’s mine. It’s a decent sized room; not small, not large. But it’s mine. I have a large desk (our old kitchen table), a television, a day bed, a corner for reading, a few bookshelves. Lots of crates. Pictures of my family. Dog beds. It’s my room, and I love it.

It makes me a better wife when I have a little time to myself, a better mother. A better person. It’s a recharge thing. My family is pretty good about getting it, understanding what I need and why I need it. Well, they do barge in and ask questions, but, in general, they get it.

I even have a window looking my office into the living room (and one that looks into the backyard), one that allows me to be in my office doing whatever but still be part of the family, but also allows me that private time that is so necessary to my soul. It’s heaven, and I know how lucky I am to have a husband to build me this mini ‘fortress of solitude.’

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And it is my space where I chill, but it’s also my space where I get things done. I work from home, so this is my workspace. Some of you go to an office everyday, I go to this office. So my  space is easily defined, and is all the more necessary because I do work from home.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carve out your own space. My husband has a little cave/office in the basement (he has his own business). But it doesn’t even have to be in your house. Make sure you have a space that makes you breathe a little deeper, helps your muscles relax and quiets your mind. A corner at the library, a treadmill at the gym, a bench at a park. Whatever and wherever it is, find it and use it often.

If I can give any advice, that’s it. Find a space that makes you feel peaceful, and do something in that space that makes you happy.

It helps my family and my life run a little smoother. And, as chaotic as our days are, we need smoother.

Okay, onto my thoughts on Anthony Marra’s The Tsar of Love and Techno.

“Turning I would to I did is the grammar of growing up.” 

The Premise

 The Tsar of Love and Techno is a collection of short stories connected through experiences and family, with the connections often unknown to the characters, all taking place in parts of Russia, mostly Siberia and Chechnya. Beginning with the tale of a 1930’s Soviet censor, who spends his time deep underneath Leningrad (St. Petersburg) artistically correcting  photographs, editing out offenders to the leadership and editing in photos of Stalin, including his orders to edit out a beautiful ballerina who betrayed the state. Onto a small Siberian village in the present-day, where the censored ballerina’s beautiful granddaughter denies herself love for a big life. Onto the love of her life, a soldier in the Chechnian wars. And the connections go on an on, providing light as to why the Russian soul is lustful for life while also aware of life’s despair.

My Thoughts

I’m not a huge fan of short stories, but I love a collection where the stories share a theme and a connection. These stories are all connected in obvious and tenuous ways, sharing themes of survival and despair, of the will to live mixed with the knowledge that death is unavoidable. The family, love of family, and the betrayal of family to save oneself.

Not only does Marra show us the unknown connections between his characters and their stories, but he highlights something even more vital: the things that connect all of us, across culture and politics and borders and oceans. Through the terror and the tears, through the despair and the losses, the Russians in his stories still find humor and love. They risk all for their loved ones, or they spend their lives in attempts to rectify betrayals committed on those loved ones. Although the locations and experiences are different, the actions of people in Russia aren’t that much different than the actions of most people I know.

I give The Tsar of Love and Techno 4 stars. Marra’s beautiful characters and his brilliant storytelling won me over, overwhelming me enough to get past my usual dislike of short stories. Well worth the read.


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